How Do I Know if I'm Gay?

Ellen Gold

Being different isn't easy. It can seem especially tough to be different during your teen years -- particularly in regard to sexuality. Most teens are just beginning to learn about their sexuality. They worry that they won't be considered "normal" and may be quick to judge others who seem different.

Developing Sexual Identity
Many young people in their early teens develop "crushes" on friends of the same sex or experiment in sex play with friends of the same sex. This is a normal, natural phase of learning about sexuality. It doesn't have anything to do with your sexual orientation as an adult.

If you think you might be gay because of a sexual experience you had in early adolescence, give yourself time to sort out your sexual identity. It's too soon to tell.

If you feel strongly attracted to people of your own sex as you grow older, you may be homosexual. Most experts now believe that your adult sexual identity-whether you're heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual-is determined long before puberty and perhaps even before birth.

A percentage of adults worldwide are homosexual or bisexual. Efforts to "correct" homosexuality have generally failed. And there's no evidence that homosexuality is caused by something parents "did" to their child.

Learning self-acceptance
Teens who are able to accept their own sexuality-whether gay or straight-probably fare better emotionally than those who can't. But learning self-acceptance can be rough no matter what, since many people still consider homosexuality immoral or unnatural.

Parents of gay teens might have difficulty accepting their child's homosexuality. Many parents of gay children find comfort and understanding in support groups such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

If you're gay, don't be afraid ask for help to cope with your feelings. Talk to a school counselor, minister or trusted adult friend. They may be able to refer you to a support group for gay and lesbian teen-agers-normal kids like you struggling to find self-acceptance and fit in with peers. Knowing you're not alone can be a great relief.

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